Friday, May 6, 2011

Thunderstone- Dominion in the Dungeon

I enjoyed Race for the Galaxy so much that I've spent the last few years trying to find a game that would be its equal in fun and satisfaction. Since Race features cards I've probably unwisely assumed that another card game is the direction to look into and that's taken me through Magic, Dominion, GoSu, and quite a few others. Toy City in Keene had a discounted copy of Thunderstone and since it featured cards I knew that at last I'd located the successor to Race!

Well I was wrong but Thunderstone has some nice qualities and is a decent choice for a family game so let's talk about it. Thunderstone is a deck constructing game. Players start with a few cards and then add new cards to their deck. The desk is repeatedly shuffled and hands are dealt so that the cards you purchase in the last turn may come up to help you in the next turn. Over the course of the game you "construct" a deck of cards and hopefully choose to add cards that will be useful later in the game.

Thunderstone has a fantasy theme and features a "village" location and a "dungeon." Some of the cards you can buy represent items like magic swords or spells. Others represent "heroes" like dwarves or amazons. Over the course of the game you can use hero cards in your hand to kill monsters in the dungeon. You might use a magic sword card to make your hero more powerful or use a torch card to help light their way. Each monster earns you victory points and also has a cash value that can be used to buy more gear.

Thunderstone has enough role playing elements that you might think of it as a role playing game. In reality the winner is the person who can most efficiently slay zillions of monsters and manage their deck well. The challenge isn't necessarily that the creatures are very tough. The challenge is to do the job quickly and make sure your deck remains useful.

I found Thunderstone to be fun but not outstanding. I expect a bit more complexity in my card and deck games and Thunderstone is somehow disappointing. One way to win? I'm spoiled by Dominion and Race for the Galaxy which both seem to feature a multitude of winning strategies. I'm also not struck by a huge variety of action combinations, again a result of being spoiled by other games. On the positive side it is easy to learn and relatively inexpensive, and I've been told that the expansions add some challenge and variety. I'm glad I got my copy on sale and I see this as a game that's appealing without being brilliant. And if you're addicted to deck building games it's certainly worth a look.

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